Intrigue. Deceit. And forbidden love on a sun-kissed tropical island — with billions of dollars on the line.
No, this isn’t a Danielle Steel bodice-ripper. Or Mark Sanford’s latest confession about crossing “the ultimate line”. Instead, it’s the story of the tangled, high-stakes relationship between Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford.
Back in February, Stanford was charged by the SEC with an $8 billion swindle. And Sessions, the chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee, had received over $44,000 from Stanford and his staff. In response, Sessions coldly denied through a spokeswoman that he even knew the disgraced banker at all.
We knew at the time that wasn’t true — and quickly published the pictures to prove it, which show Sessions and House colleagues like Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) hobnobbing with Stanford in Antigua, one of several lavish Caribbean trips the billionaire laid on for lawmakers in recent years.
[FOR THE FULL SLIDE-SHOW OF PICTURES SHOWING STANFORD’S CARIBBEAN JUNKET FOR LAWMAKERS, CLICK HERE]
In response, the Sessions spokeswoman, Emily Davis, at first told us “no comment.” A week or so later, Sessions himself acknowledged to the Dallas Morning News that he did know Stanford, though only as a public-spirited advocate for the Caribbean region where his banking operation was headquartered. “I have never been asked by Allen to do anything that really wasn’t on behalf of the entire Caribbean basin,” said Sessions (via Nexis). “Allen is a person who advocated on behalf of the islands that were down there. I am shocked, and hopeful that the investigation … will tell us what actually happened.”
The paper reported that the relationship had first been sparked in 2004, when Sessions faced a tough re-election fight against Democrat Martin Frost. Stanford played the knight in shining armor, with his firm pouring over $35,000 into Sessions’s campaign coffers to help him pull it out. We also knew that two years later, Stanford had asked Sessions to become a member of the Stanford-backed “Caribbean Caucus” of lawmakers, almost all of whom, including Sessions, appear to have taken lavish trips to the region funded indirectly by the banker.
But here’s what we didn’t know until now. The Sessions-Stanford connection wasn’t just a one-time fling, that blazed in the heat of the Caribbean sun, then burned out in the cold hard light of the Washington daily grind. Sessions isn’t that type. Last night McClatchy published a heart-rending email, which it reports, without sourcing, was sent by Sessions to Stanford hours after the SEC filed charges against the banker.
In the email, sent on the morning of February 17, Sessions promised to stand by his controversial ally. “I love you and believe in you,” he wrote. “If you want my ear/voice — e-mail.” He signed the missive, “Pete.” Just three days later, Bloomberg would report the denial from Sessions’s office that the two men knew each other.
The email is among documents being looked at by Justice Department investigators, who are reportedly probing Stanford’s ties to lawmakers.
Davis, the Sessions spokeswoman, declined to comment on the email, saying that she hadn’t been provided with a copy, and was therefore unable “unable to authenticate it.” She called the denial to Bloomberg back in February that Stanford and Sessions knew each other a “miscommunication,” which was clarified in subsequent reports.
The NRCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Late Update: Sessions’s office is out with a statement on the issue.